The West Los Angles Veterans Affairs Medical Center occupies a large parcel of land in Westwood donated by wealthy California landowner and socialite Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker in 1887. Originally known as Sawtelle Veterans Home, the site became Wadsworth Hospital in 1927. The present modern building opened in 1977.
In 2011 a group of homeless veterans sued the Center, claiming that the Veteran’s Administration was renting parts of the land for commercial gain and ignoring veterans’ housing needs. As part of the settlement of this lawsuit, the VA released a draft master plan for the future of the campus. In 2016, it announced a plan to build 1200 units of housing for veterans, sufficient for only some of the estimated 26,000 that populate the County. Currently, the sidewalk perimeter of the site on San Vicente Boulevard is lined with tents occupied by vets. Each is festooned with a large American flag sewn on the front. I spoke with many of them, and most were friendly, I heard their stories and tried to understand their problems. It wasn’t easy.
Many of these vets are damaged: some have physical combat injuries or PTSD, while others are mentally ill or addicted to drugs. The veteran administration will not accept them if they are addicted, carrying weapons, or do not have their paperwork in order. As a gesture of honor and support, I decided to feature images of these tents and their occupants for this 4th of July week.
After posting these photos, the City of Los Angeles removed the tents from the street. The Veterans Administration accepted some of the homeless vets onto the VA grounds and provided them with new tents, other vets refused to enter and just moved to another location to live on the streets. The problem still exists.